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Improving Quality of Science Teacher Training in European Cooperation

  Assessing Science for Understanding (CZ) Training Module Based on Socio-cognitive Constructivism (CY) European Dimension in Integrated Science Education (LT) Development Procedural Skills in Science Education (BG) Using Laboratory to Enhance Student Learning and Scientific Inquiry (TR)  
Unit 1 - A Conception of Integrated Science Education Unit 2 - Some Philosophic, Didactic and Social Aspects of Integrated Science Education Unit 3 - The Main Tendencies of Integrated Science Education Development Unit 4 & Unit 5 - Integrated Science Education in the Context of the Constructivism Theory
Unit 6 - The Models of Integrated Science Education Unit 7 - The Integrated Science Education Curricula and its Designing Principles in Comprehensive School Unit 8 - The Science Education Tools and Ways of Producing them in the Collaboration Process Unit 9 & Unit 10 - A Constructivist Approach to Integrated Science Education: Teaching Would-be Teachers to do Science
Unit 11 & Unit 12 - Contextual Teaching and Learning of Integrated Science in Lower and Upper Secondary Schools Unit 13 - The Evaluation Strategies of Integrated Science Teaching / Learning Unit 14 - The Collaboration Peculiarities of Science Teachers  

Unit 7
The Integrated Science Education Curricula and its Designing Principles in Comprehensive School

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The Integrated Science Education Curricula and its Designing Principles in Comprehensive School


Natural science is a subject that seeks to set out conditions for schoolchildren to adopt the basis of contemporary natural science knowledge, to cherish a modern culture of scientific thinking and activity and ability to refer to it in practice. It is very important that natural sciences should help learners to formulate a clear concept of natural history based on the latest knowledge of the world strongly emphasizing the character of the correlation between nature and society, civilization and culture. The world is multidimensional, and therefore we must strive to acknowledge it. This is a winning goal of contemporary natural science education. The objectives as concretization of this goal are supposed to be formulated at different levels. According to A.Tõldsepp (2003), the main of natural science education is to prepare young people for a full and satisfying life in the world of the 21st century. The others underline natural science-technological literacy for all and mastery for professionals (Broks, 2002).

Public society approach to natural science education (general needs, general level of culture, traditions in the light of interaction with nature, the need to have society and the young generation of a privileged natural science background, etc.), its optimal conditions of implementation (the standards of natural science education and material, human, etc. resources undertaking their success), the development of the needs and motivation of nature study (in a broad sense) (improving the need to perceive nature throughout all studies in comprehensive school, enhancing cognitive relation with nature, etc.), natural science results: knowledge, abilities, relations (studying natural sciences, etc.) are the crucial components of natural science education.

Natural science and natural science education are closely and specifically interrelated at school. Natural science education can be perceived as the synthesis of the components (Lamanauskas, 2001).

Natural science education in comprehensive school

Figure 4. Natural science and natural science education at school.

As can be seen from figure 1, natural science education is a specific synthetic, integral, systemic subject.

The science curriculum need to be based on such important didactic principles as:
In addition, the following principles are underlined in the majority of the countries:
Training (educational) content is defined by the curricula. They can vary and perform different functions. For example, in Lithuania the components of general natural science education are described by the General curricula indicating that the content of natural science education is constructed of the following central components (General curricula… p.289):
  1. Natural research:
    1. The methods of scientific research.
    2. Scientific thinking and creativity.
    3. Natural sciences and society.
  2. Animate nature (biology):
    1. Organism.
    2. Organism and environment. Biosphere and human being.
    3. Continuation and variety of life.
    4. Human being.
  3. Substances and their alteration (chemistry):
    1. The structure and composition of a substance.
    2. The subordination of the properties of substances considering their composition and structure.
    3. Chemical transformation.
    4. The main substances used in nature, daily life and technologies.
  4. Physical phenomena (physics):
    1. Physics as a natural science.
    2. Substance and its structure.
    3. Motion and force.
    4. Energy and physical processes.
    5. Physical transformations.
    6. The Earth and the Universe.

The first component of natural research is integrated into the next three.

The content of natural science education gives a chance to the dynamics and structure of the educational process. However, the adaptation of natural science knowledge system depends on both the teacher (choosing and applying teaching methods and forms, etc.) and the pupil (the methods of learning, motivation, general abilities). The diversity of teaching and learning content, forms and methods, activities are typical of natural science education. All that makes the educational process effective: develop intellectual knowledge and skills, set out conditions for intense pupils’ activities, shape thinking, foster aesthetic feelings, etc.

The natural science knowledge and skills gained by pupils in the educational process form the content of teaching natural science. Anyhow, the process of natural science education includes the teacher and children’s activity based on direct and indirect relations. Children are interested in the classes of science when the content of the taught material is comprehensible, attracts attention and imagination, encourages to intensively work and is problematic. A highly effective component of natural science education is the presentation and examining of problems. It can be expressed in three ways: 1) asking questions about the relevant subject; 2) presenting demanding tasks; 3) facing serious problems.

Some fundamental moments can be emphasized:

In addition, integrated natural science education is examined in the context of the ideas of constructivism. A basic premise of constructivism is that knowledge is not passively received but developed as students construct their own meanings (Treagust, 1996). Teachers who valued their students existing ideas` and attempted to link learning to them (i.e., using a constructivist premise about learning) were more able to make relevant links and transfer of skills across curriculum areas. They were more likely to involve integration as a framework in their teaching (Waldrip, 2001). According to Bentley and Watts, learning is always an interpretative process involving individuals` constructions of meaning. New constructions are based upon previous experience and prior knowledge (Bentley, Watts, 1994, p.24).

It is possible to indicate some basic principles for science education curricula:
According A.Toldsepp (2003) the ideal paradigm of science education today is the teaching balanced science according to balanced curricula and syllabi in strongly social context based on psychological and didactical treatment. There should be balance between:
Also we can notice three main other principles for designing of curricula:

Experience and research have shown that success in curriculum innovation depends upon the active involvement of teachers in curriculum development.

The curriculum of natural science should reflect not only the integration of content, but the process should be seen as well. Integrated courses of natural sciences should agree with systematic courses, and all presented information should be bound together by sensible meaning. The efficiency of the integrated learning is directly dependant on the activities of students. Integrated courses should be well supported by a set of teaching / learning aids such as textbooks, workbooks, visual / demonstration aids, teacher’s books, etc. (Lamanauskas, 2003). Integration also presupposes the increase of the abstract. The younger are the students, the less is their knowledge. Consequently, the degree of integration should be limited in this respect. The integration of content should be combined with differentiation and individualization of teaching, because every child has his / her own ways or models for learning.

In general, all of the definitions of integrated curriculum or interdisciplinary curriculum include (Lake, 1994):

Future science curricula should recognize the interaction of science, technology, and society and should give students the skills for learning and applying scientific knowledge, an awareness of ethics and values in science, and a future perspective (Robinson, 1982). Science curricula have been criticised for ignoring the relevance of science to the health, wealth, happiness, security and curiosity of humanity and neglecting all accounts of the numerous ways in which science based technologies contribute to society (Sjøberg, 2000).

It is important to state that:
Some types of curriculum can be mentioned:

The curriculum of the constructive (based on a particular subject teaching) system. A strict interpretation of the subjects is characteristic of the curriculum. All subjects are taught individually, the content of teaching and the methods of activities are absent. The curriculum has its own advantages and disadvantages. The top qualities of the curriculum should be as follows:
The major drawbacks of the curriculum:
The curriculum of parallel (adjacent) teaching of subjects. The exposition of the classes of an individual subject (for example, biology) correlates with other classes of the subjects of the same field (for example, chemistry, physics, geography). Moreover, teaching order changes. However, the content itself practically remains the same. The curricula of natural sciences do not artificially correlate. The main advantages of the curriculum should be:
The main disadvantages are supposed to be:

The curriculum of supplementary (parallel) subjects. A characteristic feature of the curriculum is that relative natural sciences are combined into a single class or even an individual module (course). The degree of integration increases. On the other hand, the subjects of a different format correlate as much as they can explain or supplement each other. Lithuanian comprehensive secondary school applies such modules under the circumstances of profile teaching.

The following advantages can be accentuated:
The obvious disadvantages are:
Interdisciplinary curricula. All teaching subjects (including those of natural sciences) correlate in the school syllabus. Classes and other occupations take place a certain amount of time, i.e. periods (some days, weeks, etc.). Clear advantages are as follows:
Serious drawbacks are as follows:
The curriculum of the integrated day. In the light of integrated education, this curriculum is really valuable. The majority of the followers of the latest movement (Stainer, Frene, etc.) have successfully applied it. A key point is that the organic approach to a class life is emphasized. The issues and interests of the child are the focus of the educational process the main advantages of which are:
The main drawbacks are:
A completely integrated curriculum. This is an extreme form of interdisciplinary work. Schoolchildren’s life is completely coincident with school life. Work is very complex if followed this curriculum. A traditional (classic) school can hardly accept it. Nevertheless, the main advantages are:
The major disadvantages are:

Fogarty has described ten levels of curricula integration (1991).

Figure 5. Ten levels of curricula integration (Fogarty, 1991).

Different researches shows the positive effects of curriculum integration. Lipson (1993) summarizes the following findings:

School science curriculum reform is a global phenomenon, with change in the form and/or content of science courses often being allied to the specification of standards, goals or levels of attainment that students should achieve at particular stages of their schooling (Jenkins, 2000).

Tasks (assignments)

  1. Motivate the statement that an assessment of science content clearly shows it has integral and systemic nature.
  2. One of the components of the content of science education is creating optimal conditions for learning sciences. Refer to the circumstances ensuring the possibility of successful implementation of science education curriculum?
  3. Define and compare the concepts ‘content’ and ‘curricula’. Fill in the table to reach sufficient clarity:

    The basic principles of science education The basic principles of science education curriculum

  4. Identify and describe the already known types of science education curricula and put them in sequence starting from the lowest level (1) to completed integrity (6):

    Curriculum title Curriculum specificities

  5. What are the possible reasons for science curriculum reformations in many countries in Europe at secondary level?
Case study

A week of integrated education Forest is organized at school X. When integrating natural sciences with other educational subjects, knowledge of sciences is introduced and educational content is related to the questions considering school environment and students’ living place, customs and traditions. The learners are encouraged to show their interest in surroundings, a wish for inquisitiveness is stimulated and a positive children’s attitude towards nature and science education is adopted. Following a weekly plan of integrated education prepared by teacher A, the first day of the week involves the classes on the mother tongue, world study and music and discusses the topics dealing with the national lifestyle, forest birds, voices of birds, spelling of future tense verbs and folk songs about birds (listening and singing). The second day of the week includes the classes on the mother tongue, world study, music and a trip to the forest. The learners have to analyse an extract from a literature piece about forest, to get acquainted with the book Forest Fairy-tales by a national writer, to describe forest, to observe forest changes in spring, to collect material about nature and to prepare for coming creative work. The activities of the following week days are arranged in a similar way. Such arrangement of work at school evidently helps with acquiring a new knowledge as well as assists in broadening world outlook and forming acceptable behaviour in nature. Applying this educational form works for close relations between students’ cognitive and practical activities.

Questions to Case Study

  1. Establish the form of the currently designed curriculum and reason your position.
  2. What are the difficulties a teacher can face when implementing the above introduced curriculum?

Training (educational) content is defined by the curricula. They can vary and perform different functions. The science curriculum need to be based on such important didactic principles as humanism, democracy, spiral, integration. Worldwide experience of science education is long and diverse. Detailed implementation of the ideas started only in the second half of the 20th century. School science curriculum reform is a global phenomenon, with change in the form and/or content of science courses often being allied to the specification of standards, goals or levels of attainment that students should achieve at particular stages of their schooling (Jenkins, 2000). Science education curricula can differ in format and purpose. They are distributed into the science education curricula of a particular country and specific integrated educational curricula of sciences. The curricula devoted to natural science development in a particular country differ from the specific curricula dedicated to teach integrated natural sciences. The assessment of science curricula of various countries reveals an essential consistent pattern – the majority of them are much the same. Therefore, the debate on these curricula discloses that they are not suitable for all sociums and ethnic-cultural regions and certainly for educational situations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why it is necessary to improve science education curricula?

The modern curriculum must focus on various activities which enable students to get to know more about their environment. The new curricula should be interesting for students. The main point of integrated science curricula is that natural science is now studied as a whole.

Next Reading

Bencze, T., & Hodson, D. (1999). Changing practice by changing practice: Toward more authentic science and science curriculum development. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36, 521-540.

Beane, J. A. (1997). Curriculum Integration: Designing the core of democratic education. New York: Teacher’s College Press.

Bonnstetter, R. J. & Yager R. E. (1999). On Research: Building a Constructivitist Approach to Reform. Science Scope, 15 (1). National Science Teachers Association, Washington, D.C.

Brooks, J. G. & Brooks, M. G. (1993). The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Darling-Hammond, L. & Snyder, J. (1992). Curriculum studies and the tradition of inquiry: The scientific tradition. pp 41-78. In Jackson, P. (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Curriculum. New York: MacMillan.

Drake, S. M. (1998). Creating Integrated Curriculum. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Driver, R., Oldham, V. (1986). A Constructivist Approach to Curriculum Development in Science. Studies in Science Education, Vol. 13, p. 105-122.

Fensham, P.J. (1997). Continuity and discontinuity in curriculum policy and practice: case studies of science in four countries. In.: K.Calhoun, R. Panwar and S. Shrum (eds), Proceedings of 8th Symposium of IOSTE, Vol. 2, Policy, pp. 32-36, Edmonton.

Lamanauskas V. (2003). Natural Science Education in Comprehensive School. Siauliai: Siauliai University Press, p. 514.

Ledoux M., McHenry N. (2004). A Constructivist Approach in the Interdisciplinary Instruction of Science and Language Arts Methods. Teaching Education, Vol. 15, No. 4, p. 385-399.

Popov, O. (2008). Considering Liberal and Humanistic Values in Science Education Curriculum. Problems of Education in the 21st Century (Current Research on ICT and Science Education), Vol. 3, p. 40-47.


Arends R. J. (1998). Mokomės mokyti.Vilnius, p. 337-357.

Bentley D., Watts M. (1994). Primary science and technology. Practical alternatives. Buckingham*Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Broks A. (2002). Congratulations. Wishing happy birthday to the Journal of Baltic Science Education. Journal of Baltic Science Education, No.1, p.5.

Fogarty, R. (1991). The Mindful School: How to Integrate the Curricula. Palatine, IL: Skylight Publishing, Inc.

Jenkins, E. (2000). “Science for all”: time for a paradigm shift? In.: R.Millar, J.Leach, J.Osborne (eds), Improving Science Education. Buckingham, OUP, p. 207-226.

Lake, K. (1994). Integrated Curriculum. School Improvement Research Series. Available on the Internet at: http://www.nwrel.org/scpd/sirs/8/c016.html (10.08.2008).

Lamanauskas V. (2001). Gamtamokslinis ugdymas pirmo kurso studentų požiūriu. Pedagogika, T.54. p. 93-101.

Lamanauskas V. (2003). Natural Science Education in Comprehensive School. Siauliai: Siauliai University Press, p. 514.

Lamanauskas V. (2003). Natural Science Education in Lithuanian Secondary School: Some Relevant Issues. Journal of Baltic Science Education, No.1, p. 44-55.

Lipson, M., Valencia, S., Wixson, K., Peters, C. (1993). Integration and Thematic Teaching: Integration to Improve Teaching and Learning. Language Arts, 70/4, p. 252-264.

Sjøberg, S. (2000). Science and Scientists: The SAS-study Cross-cultural evidence and perspectives on pupils’ interests, experiences and perceptions - Background, Development and Selected Results – Acta Didactica no.1. University of Oslo. Revised and enlarged version, 2002. Available in http://folk.uio.no/sveinsj/

Robinson J.T. (1982). Designing Science Curricula for Future Citizens. Educational Leadership, Vol. 39, No. 8, p. 593-595.

Tõldsepp A., Toots V. (2003). Research and development work from the perspective of compiling balanced curricula for science education. Journal of Baltic Science Education, No.1, p. 5-11.

Treagust D., Gräber W. (2001). Teaching chemical equilibrium in Australian and German senior high schools. In. H.Behrendt, H.Dahncke, R.Duit et al. (eds). Research in Science Education – Past, Present, and Future. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, p.143-148.

Waldrip B. (2001). Primary Teachers` Views About Integrating Science and Literacy. Australian Primary and Junior Science Journal, Vol.17, Issue 1.